I hope I wasn’t the only person struck by the fact that the 06/23/06 New York Times article by Dan Wakin about Gilder Lehrman Hall presented a powerful position about the nature of a performing arts organization…
In particular, the article reports that the Morgan Library and Museum, which built the new concert space,
“In a coup, the Morgan has lured away the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble from [Carneigie’s] Zankel Hall…”
To me, that portrays the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra as a commodity: something useful that can be turned to commercial or other advantage. More to the point, they are something to tempt away from a name brand venue; namely, Carnegie.
Naturally, the article doesn’t go into the distressing state of orchestral finance, nor should it. However, I keep my eye on St. Luke’s and I think they if I had to rank orchestras based on financial vitality; St. Luke’s would easily make the top five.
I doubt this fact is lost on the cultural movers and shakers within NYC and they are likely well aware that St. Luke’s artistic accomplishment is accompanied by healthy financial practices. Frankly, if St. Luke’s were a publicly traded company, they would have been bought-out by a now.
As such, the questions this article should inspire every orchestra manager to ask are: “How do my local venues perceive our organization, as a commodity or a liability? Why?” In this case, honesty is your best ally and the best suited people to provide useful answers can be found outside your organization.